County working to limit impact of Pioneer bankruptcy

By Nicholas Elmes -

Following news that Pioneer Health Services, the parent company of Pioneer Community Hospital of Stokes County, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the Stokes County Board of Commissioners is working to limit the impact to the local community.

On Wednesday, the board unanimously adopted a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which would start the process of transferring the hospital property back to the county if the bankruptcy proceedings led to the closing of the hospital.

“We are exploring the options to try to keep it open,” said County Manager Rick Morris. “With the bankruptcy it adds a level of uncertainty that we have not dealt with before. It is certainly our desire to keep it open.”

The MOU states that the county and Pioneer have begun preliminary discussion regarding the possible transfer of all hospital and health care operations and operating assets back to the county.

“Both County and Pioneer desire that all existing hospital and health care facilities located in Stokes County and currently being operated by Pioneer, remain open and fully operational in order to provide continuing uninterrupted access to health care services to the communities currently being served, and to avoid the potential risk of closure of the hospital, which has a large under-served population,” reads the MOU.

Board Chair Leon Inman said the MOU was the first step in the process, and will eventually be followed by a non-binding Letter of Intent which will more clearly define terms and conditions for any potential transfer.

“Pioneer will take this with them to a bankruptcy hearing on Friday and the bankruptcy judge will have more information after that,” said Inman.

“The parties shall use every effort in consummating a final and definitive agreement transferring all hospital operations and all operating assets, including all supplies, equipment, drugs, and the like of the hospital to the County,” reads the MOU, noting that both parties reserve the right to terminate negotiations at any time in the future.

The Board also agreed to contract with the law firm Parker Poe to assist in the transfer.

“Parker Poe is a specialty partner that deals with hospital transfers,” said Inman, noting that the county has recently used the firm during the transfer of home health services to Pioneer in 2014. “The county attorney will contact them for specific legal advice.”

Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.

By Nicholas Elmes